London Film Fest Review: Ben Wheatley's Bloody Bonkers 'High-Rise'
by Amanda Keats
October 15, 2015
To show us where we'll be ending up, the chaos has already taken place when the completely bloody bonkers High-Rise begins, and what we're left with is the dog-eating aftermath. (Literally, he eats a dog!) Director Ben Wheatley (of Sightseers, Kill List) certainly knows how to make weird and wonderful cinema that will divide audiences and he's gone on to make another one with this adaptation, based on the JG Ballard novel from the 70s. Set in a tower block, where the wealthy live at the top and the poor live at the bottom, this is a tale of class and wealth divide, with plenty of chaos, debauchery and nudity for all to enjoy.
The staggeringly large and impressive cast, which includes Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss, are all mesmerizing from the outset, putting in performances that are beautifully ridiculous and range from hilarious or endearing to downright nasty, depending on what floor you're on at the time. Hiddleston leads, as Dr. Robert Laing, with a quiet charm that seems to lure others in as he becomes something of a go-between for the different levels. Moss is completely enchanting as the friendly pregnant woman whose innocence seems to appeal to Laing, while Miller lures him in using far more seductive methods.
Despite the talent pool he has compiled, Wheatley does not rest all his hopes solely on the actors. High-Rise has real vision. The cinematography by DP Laurie Rose is nothing short of delicious, offering a superb color palette for the viewer and great angles and perspectives that will captivate as much as the cast. Each frame is stunning to behold so whether there is sex, violence, swimming or a supermarket on screen, it all looks equally gorgeous. This is, after all, a building that seems to contain an entirely new world on each floor, including a garden on the roof that has its own horse!
Added to this, the music is exciting, and often assaulting, and knows just when to play with the viewer and when to blast at their senses. One of the major highlights is a Portishead remake of Abba's "SOS" which is haunting and enchanting and matches the scene in which it plays to perfection. Clint Mansell's score is so hypnotic that it's worth seeing the film again just to hear it. It's fun and playful, dark and seductive – just like the film.
Eventually, High-Rise starts to feel a little over-long in parts but it's not enough to warrant anything being particularly tarnished. The film stands alone as a piece of cinematic genius, bold and daring in its execution. I may not always love (or entirely understand!) Wheatley's work but when the man gets it right, does he get it right. It is fantastical and wonderfully ridiculous and becomes a piece of pure blood-stained escapism. High-Rise is not a film that will please everyone but if you enjoy your films weird and wonderful, this is absolutely one for you.
Now to find a copy of the book…
Amanda's London 2015 Rating: 8 out of 10
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